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This article is about the medieval religious military campaigns. For other uses, see Crusades (disambiguation).
"Crusaders" redirects here. For other uses, see Crusaders (disambiguation).
 Medieval illustration of a battle during the Second Crusade
A battle of the Second Crusade (illustration of William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outremer, 1337)
Map of the states of the Eastern Mediterranean in 1135
Map of the Eastern Mediterranean in 1135. The Frankish Crusader states are indicated with a red cross : Kingdom of Jerusalem, County of Tripoli, Principality of Antioch, County of Edessa. The Principality of Armenian Cilicia was a crusader state under Armenian (Rubenid) rule. The remnant of the Byzantine Empire is visible in the west; the (nascent) Seljuq Empire and Fatimid Egypt are shown in green.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period, especially the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean with the aim of capturing Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Islamic rule, to recapture Christian territory and defend Christian pilgrims. The term "crusades" is also applied to other campaigns sanctioned by the Church, fought to combat paganism and heresy or to resolve conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or to gain political or territorial advantage. The term crusades itself is early modern, modelled on Middle Latin cruciatae, and has in more recent times been extended to include religiously motivated Christian military campaigns in the Late Middle Ages.

The First Crusade arose after a call to arms in a 1095 sermon by Pope Urban II. Urban urged military support for the Byzantine Empire and its Emperor, Alexios I, who needed reinforcements for his conflict with westward migrating Turks in Anatolia. One of Urban's stated aims was to guarantee pilgrims access to the holy sites in the Eastern Mediterranean that were under Muslim control, but scholars disagree whether this was the primary motivation for Urban or the majority of those who heeded his call. Urban's wider strategy may have been to unite the Eastern and Western branches of Christendom, which had been divided since their split in the East–West Schism of 1054, and establish himself as head of the unified Church. Similarly, some of the hundreds of thousands of people who became crusaders by taking a public vow and receiving plenary indulgences from the church were peasants hoping for Apotheosis at Jerusalem, or forgiveness from God for all their sins. Others participated to satisfy feudal obligations, gain glory and honour, or find opportunities for economic and political gain. Regardless of the motivation, the response to Urban's preaching by people of many different classes across Western Europe established the precedent for later crusades.

Different perspectives of the actions carried out, at least nominally, under Papal authority during the crusades have polarised historians. To some their behaviour was incongruous with the stated aims and implied moral authority of the papacy and the crusades, in one case to the extent that the Pope excommunicated crusaders.[1] Crusaders often pillaged as they travelled, while their leaders retained control of much captured territory rather than returning it to the Byzantines; During the People's Crusade thousands of Jews were murdered in what is now called the Rhineland massacres; and Constantinople was sacked during the Fourth Crusade rendering the reunification of Christendom impossible.

The crusades had a profound impact on Western civilisation: they reopened the Mediterranean to commerce and travel (enabling Genoa and Venice to flourish); consolidated the collective identity of the Latin Church under papal leadership; and were a wellspring for accounts of heroism, chivalry and piety. These tales consequently galvanised medieval romance, philosophy and literature. The crusades also reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.


Further information: Historiography of the Crusades

Crusade is not a contemporaneous term, instead the terms iter for journey or peregrinatio for pilgrimage were used. Not until the word crucesignatus for one who was signed with the cross was adopted at close of the twelfth century was specific terminology developed.[2] The Oxford English Dictionary links the Etymology of the word crusade to the modern French croisade, Old French croisee, Provençal crozada, Spanish cruzada, Italian crociata, medieval Latin cruciata (cruzata), which are the feminine nouns formed on past the participles of cruciāre, crociare, cruzar, croiser based on the verb to cross, a being crossed, a crossing or marking with the cross, a taking the cross. The earliest and only Middle English equivalents were derived from old French; croiserie in the 13th–15th centuries and croisee in the 15–17th century. In 16th century French, croisée was displaced by croisade adapted from Provençal and Spanish. This croisade appeared in English c1575, and continued to be the leading form till c1760. About 1600, the Spanish cruzada made its appearance under the forms crusada and crusado and a blending of this with croisade produced two hybrid forms, croisado and croisada, with French stem and Spanish ending and crusade, with Spanish stem and French ending, mentioned by Johnson in 1755 but only as a by-form of croisade.[3] By convention historians adopt the term for the Christian holy wars from 1095 but this does lead to a misleading impression of coherence in the early "Crusades".[2]

The Crusades in the Holy Land are traditionally counted as nine distinct campaigns, numbered from the First Crusade of 1095–99 to the Ninth Crusade of 1271/2. This convention is used by Charles Mills in his History of the Crusades for the Recovery and Possession of the Holy Land (1820), and is often retained for convenience, even though it is somewhat arbitrary: The Fifth and Sixth Crusades led by Frederick II may be considered a single campaign, as can the Eight Crusade and Ninth Crusade led by Louis IX.[4]

Usage of the term "crusade" may differ depending on the author. Constable (2001) describes four different perspectives among scholars:

  • Traditionalists restrict their definition of crusades to the Christian campaigns in the Holy Land, "either to assist the Christians there or to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher", during 1095–1291.[5]
  • Pluralists use the term crusade of any campaign explicitly sanctioned by the reigning Pope.[6] This reflects the view of the Roman Catholic Church (including medieval contemporaries such as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux) that every military campaign given Papal sanction is equally valid as a crusade, regardless of its cause, justification, or geographic location. This broad definition subsumes attacks on paganism and heresy, such as the Albigensian Crusade, the Northern Crusades and the Hussite Wars, and wars for political or territorial advantage, such as the Aragonese Crusade in Sicily, a crusade declared by Pope Innocent III against Markward of Anweiler in 1202,[7] one against the Stedingers, several (declared by several popes) against Emperor Frederick II and his sons,[8] two crusades against opponents of King Henry III of England,[9] and the Christian re-conquest of Iberia.[10]
  • Generalists see crusades as any and all holy wars connected with the Latin Church and fought in defence of their faith.
  • Popularists, Constable did not use this term,[11] limit the crusades to only those that were characterised by popular groundswells of religious fervour – that is, only the First Crusade and perhaps the People's Crusade.[12]

Medieval Muslim historiographers such as Ali ibn al-Athir refer to the Crusades as the "Frankish Wars" (ḥurūb al-faranǧa حروب الفرنجة). The term used in modern Arabic, ḥamalāt ṣalībiyya حملات صليبية, lit. "campaigns of the cross", is a loan translation of the term crusade as used in Western historiography.[13]

Eastern Mediterranean[edit]


Map showing the expansion of Islam 622–750
  Islamic expansion under Muhammad, 622–632
  ... during the Rashidun Caliphate, 632–661
  ... and during the Umayyad Caliphate, 661–750

In the seventh and eighth centuries, Islam was introduced in the Arabian Peninsula by the Islamic prophet Muhammad and a newly unified polity. This led to a rapid expansion of Arab power, the influence of which stretched from the northwest Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, southern Italy, and the Iberian Peninsula, to the Pyrenees.[14][15][16] Tolerance, trade, and political relationships between the Arabs and the Christian states of Europe waxed and waned. For example, the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre but his successor allowed the Byzantine Empire to rebuild it.[17] Pilgrimages by Catholics to sacred sites were permitted, resident Christians were given certain legal rights and protections under Dhimmi status, and interfaith marriages were not uncommon.[18] Cultures and creeds coexisted and competed, but the frontier conditions became increasingly inhospitable to Catholic pilgrims and merchants.[19]

The Reconquista (recapture of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims) began during the 8th century, reaching its turning point in 1085 when Alfonso VI of León and Castile retook Toledo from Muslim rule.[20] The Byzantine Empire also regained territory at the end of the 10th century, with Basil II spending most of his half-century reign in conquest. In Northern Europe, the Germans used crusading as a method to expand Christianity and their territories at the expense of the non-Christian Slavs,[21] and Sicily was conquered by Norman adventurer Roger De Hauteville in 1091.[22]

Europe in this period was immersed in power struggles on many different fronts. In 1054, centuries of attempts by the Latin Church to assert supremacy over the Patriarchs of the Eastern Empire led to a permanent division in the Christian church called the East–West Schism.[23] Following the Gregorian Reform an assertive, reformist papacy attempted to increase its power and influence. Beginning around 1075 and continuing during the First Crusade, the Investiture Controversy was a power struggle between Church and state in medieval Europe over whether the Catholic Church or the Holy Roman Empire held the right to appoint church officials and other clerics.[24][25] Antipope Clement III was an alternative pope for most of this period, and Pope Urban spent much of his early pontificate in exile from Rome. In this the papacy began to assert its independence from secular rulers, marshalling arguments for the proper use of armed force by Catholics. The result was intense piety, an interest in religious affairs, and religious propaganda advocating a just war to reclaim Palestine from the Muslims. The majority view was that non-Christians could not be forced to accept Christian baptism or be physically assaulted for having a different faith, although a minority believed that vengeance and forcible conversion were justified for the denial of Christian faith and government.[26] Participation in such a war was seen as a form of penance that could counterbalance sin.[27]

The status quo was disrupted by the invading Turks. In 1071 they defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Manzikert and the rapidly expanding Great Seljuk Empire gained nearly all of Anatolia while the empire descended into frequent civil wars.[28] One year later the Turks wrested control of Palestine from the Fatimids.[29]

First Crusade (1096–1099) and aftermath[edit]

Map of the Seljuk Empire 1092
The Great Seljuk Empire at its greatest extent (1092)

In 1095 at the Council of Piacenza, Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos requested military aid from Pope Urban II to fight the Turks, probably in the form of mercenary reinforcements. It is likely he exaggerated the danger facing the Eastern Empire while making his appeal.[30] At the Council of Clermont later that year, Urban raised the issue again and preached for a crusade. Historian Paul Everett Pierson asserts that Urban also hoped that aiding the Eastern Church would lead to its reunion with the Western under his leadership.[31]

Almost immediately thereafter Peter the Hermit began preaching to thousands of mostly poor Christians, whom he led out of Europe in what became known as the People's Crusade.[32] Peter had with him a letter he claimed had fallen from heaven instructing Christians to seize Jerusalem in anticipation of the apocalypse.[33] In addition to the motivations of the landed classes, academic Norman Cohn has identified a "messianism of the poor" inspired by an expected mass apotheosis at Jerusalem.[34] In Germany the Crusaders massacred Jewish communities. The Rhineland massacres were the first major outbreak of European antisemitism.[35] In Speyer, Worms, Mainz and Cologne the range of anti-Jewish activity was broad, extending from limited, spontaneous violence to full-scale military attacks.[36] Despite Alexios' advice to await the nobles, the People's Crusade advanced to Nicaea and fell to a Turkish ambush at the Battle of Civetot, from which only about 3,000 crusaders escaped.[37]

Map of the journey of the First Crusade
Route of the First Crusade through Asia

Both Philip I of France and Emperor Henry IV were in conflict with Urban and did not participate; the noble armies embarked in August and September 1096 divided into four separate parts.[38] The armies travelled eastward by land to Byzantium where they received a welcome from the Emperor.[39][40][41] The combined force including non-combatants may have contained as many as 100,000 people.[42] The army, mostly French and Norman knights under baronial leadership, pledged to restore lost territories to the empire and marched south through Anatolia.[43][44][45] The crusaders besieged Antioch, massacring the inhabitants and pillaging the city. They were immediately besieged by a large army led by Kerbogha. Bohemond of Taranto successfully rallied the crusader army and defeated Kerbogha.[46] Bohemond then kept control of the city, despite his pledge that he would provide aid to Alexios.[47] The remaining crusader army marched south along the coast reaching Jerusalem with only a fraction of their original forces.[48] The Jewish and Muslim inhabitants fought together to defend Jerusalem, but the crusaders entered the city on 15 July 1099. They proceeded to massacre the inhabitants and pillage the city.[49] In his Historia Francorum qui ceperunt Iherusalem, Raymond D'Aguilers exalted actions a modern viewpoint would consider atrocities.[50]

The First Crusade established the first four crusader states in the Eastern Mediterranean: the County of Edessa (1098–1149), the Principality of Antioch (1098–1268), the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099–1291), and the County of Tripoli (1104—Tripoli was not conquered until 1109—to 1289). The Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia originated before the Crusades, but it received kingdom status from Pope Innocent III and later became fully Westernised by the House of Lusignan. According to historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, these states were the first examples of "Europe overseas". They are generally known as outremer, from the French outre-mer ("overseas" in English).[51][52]

On a popular level, the First Crusade unleashed a wave of impassioned, pious Catholic fury—expressed in the massacres of Jews that accompanied the crusades[53] and the violent treatment of the "schismatic" Orthodox Christians of the east.[54] A second, less successful crusade known as the Crusade of 1101 followed in which Turks led by Kilij Arslan defeated the crusaders in three separate battles.[55]

12th century[edit]

Miniature of the siege of Tyre in 1124

Under the papacies of Calixtus II, Honorius II, Eugenius III and Innocent II smaller scale crusading continued around the Crusader States in the early 12th century. The third decade saw campaigns by Fulk V of Anjou, the Venetians, Conrad III of Germany and the foundation of the Knights Templar.[56] This period also saw the innovation of granting indulgences to those who opposed papal enemies that marked the beginning of politically motivated crusades.[57] The loss of Aleppo in 1128 and Edessa (Urfa) in 1144 to Imad ad-Din Zengi, governor of Mosul led to preaching for what subsequently became known as the Second Crusade.[58][59][60] King Louis VII and Conrad III led armies from France and Germany to Jerusalem and also Damascus without winning any major victories.[61] Bernard of Clairvaux, who had encouraged the Second Crusade in his preaching, was upset with the violence and slaughter directed towards the Jewish population of the Rhineland.[62]

Miniature of Phillip of France arriving in the Eastern Mediterranean
Detail of a miniature of King Philip II of France arriving in the Eastern Mediterranean (mid 14th century)

In the Iberian Peninsula crusaders continued to make gains with the king of Portugal, Afonso I, retaking Lisbon and Raymond Berenguer IV of Barcelona conquering the city of Tortosa[63][64] In Northern Europe the Saxons and Danes fought against Wends in the Wendish Crusade,[65] although no official papal bulls were issued authorising new crusades.[66] The Wends were finally defeated in 1162.[67]

Saladin united the enemies of the Crusader States, retook Jerusalem and won the Battle of Hattinin 1187.[68][69] According to Benedict of Peterborough, Pope Urban III died of deep sadness on 19 October 1187 on hearing of the defeat.[70] His successor, Pope Gregory VIII, issued a papal bull named Audita tremendi that proposed a further crusade later numbered the third to recapture Jerusalem. Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor died en route to Jerusalem, drowning in the Saleph River, and few of his men reached the Eastern Mediterranean.[71]

Travelling to what became known as the Third Crusade, Richard I of England conquered Cyprus in 1191 in response to his sister and fiancee, who were travelling separately, being taken captive by the island's ruler, Isaac Komnenos.[72] On arrival in the East, Richard quarreled with Philip II of France who returned home, leaving most of his forces behind. Richard recaptured Acre after a long siege, traveled south along the Mediterranean coast, defeated the Muslims near Arsuf and recaptured the port city of Jaffa. Within sight of Jerusalem supply shortages prevented assault and forced retreat.[73] Instead, a three-year truce was negotiated that allowed Catholics unfettered access to Jerusalem.[74] Illness and politics in England forced Richard's departure, never to return, but Emperor Heny VI initiated the German Crusade to fulfil the promises made by his father, Frederick. Led by Conrad, Archbishop of Mainz, the army captured the cities of Sidon and Beirut. However, most of the crusaders returned to Germany when Henry died.[75]


Image of Christian coin
Christian dirham with Arabic inscriptions (1216–1241)

Crusades were expensive; as the number of wars increased, their costs escalated. Pope Urban II called upon the rich to help First Crusade lords such as Duke Robert of Normandy and Count Raymond of St. Gilles, who subsidised knights in their armies. The total cost to King Louis IX of France of the 1284–85 crusades was estimated at six times the king's annual income. Rulers demanded subsidies from their subjects,[76] and alms and bequests prompted by the conquest of Palestine were additional sources of income. The popes ordered that collection boxes be placed in churches and, beginning in the mid-twelfth century, granted indulgences in exchange for donations and bequests.[77]

Military orders[edit]

The military orders such as the Knights Hospitallers and the Knights Templars, provided Latin Christendom's first professional armies in support of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the other Crusader states. The Knights Hospitallers (Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem) had been founded in Jerusalem before the First Crusade but greatly enlarged its mission once the Crusades began.[78] The Poor Knights of Christ and its Temple of Solomon were founded around 1119 by a small band of knights who dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims en route to Jerusalem.[79]

The Hospitallers and the Templars became supranational organisations as Papal support led to rich donations of land and revenue across Europe. This in turn led to a steady flow of new recruits and the wealth to maintain multiple fortifications across the Outremer. In time this developed into autonomous power in the region.[80]

After the fall of Acre the Hospitallers first relocated to Cyprus, conquered and ruled Rhodes (1309–1522) and Malta (1530–1798). In 1322 the king of France suppressed the Knights Templar, ostensibly for sodomy, magic and heresy, but probably for financial and political reasons.[81]

13th century[edit]

Fourth Crusade & aftermath[edit]

Innocent III also began preaching what became the Fourth Crusade in 1200, primarily in France, but also in England and Germany.[82] The Fourth Crusade never came to within 1,000 miles of its objective of Jerusalem, instead conquering Byzantium twice before being routed by the Bulgars at Adrianople. After gathering in Venice the crusade was used by Doge Enrico Dandolo and Philip of Swabia to further their secular ambitions. Dandolo's aim was expand Venice's power in the Eastern Mediterranean and Philip intended to restore his exiled nephew, Alexios IV Angelos, to the throne of Byzantium.[83] The crusaders were unable to pay the Venetians for a fleet when too few knights arrived in Venice, so they agreed to divert to Constantinople and share what could be looted as payment. As collateral the crusaders seized the Christian city of Zara; Innocent was appalled, and excommunicated them.[1] After the initial success in taking Byzantium, the original purpose of the campaign was defeated by the assassination of Alexios IV Angelos. In response the crusaders sacked the city, pillaged churches, and killed many citizens.

Map of the Latin and Byzantine Empires in 1205
The Latin and Byzantine Empires in 1205

The Fourth Crusade established a Latin Empire in the east and allowed the partition of Byzantine territory by its participants. The Latin emperor controlled one-fourth of the Byzantine territory, Venice three-eighths (including three-eighths of the city of Constantinople), and the remainder was divided among the other crusade leaders. This began the period of Greek history known as Frankokratia or Latinokratia ("Frankish [or Latin] rule"), when Catholic Western European nobles—primarily from France and Italy—established states on former Byzantine territory and ruled over the Orthodox Byzantine Greeks.[84][A] In the long run, the sole beneficiary was Venice.[85]

Further Eastern Crusades[edit]

Manuscript illumination of five men outside a fortress
Frederick II (left) meets al-Kamil (right) in a manuscript illumination from Giovanni Villani's Nuova Cronica

Crusading resumed against Saladin's Ayyubid successors in Egypt and Syria in 1217, following Innocent III's Fourth Council of the Lateran. Led by Andrew II and Leopold VI, Duke of Austria, forces drawn mainly from Hungary, Germany, Flanders, and Frisia achieved little. Leopold and John of Brienne besieged and captured Damietta but an invasion further into Egypt was compelled to surrender.[86][87] Damietta was returned and an eight-year truce agreed.[88] Although Frederick II had been excommunicated for breaking his vow to crusade, he finally arrived at Acre in 1228.[89][90] A peace treaty was agreed giving Latin Christians most of Jerusalem and a strip of territory from Acre, while the Muslims controlled their sacred areas. In return, an alliance was made with Al-Kamil, Sultan of Egypt, against all of his enemies of whatever religion.[91] After the truce expired, further campaigns were led by Theobald I of Navarre, Peter of Dreux and Hugh IV, Duke of Burgundy. Defeated at Gaza, Theobald agreed treaties with Damascus and Egypt that returned territory to the crusader states. He returned to Europe in 1240 but Richard of Cornwall arrived in Acre a few weeks later and completed the enforcement.[92]

In 1244 a band of Khwarezmian mercenaries travelling to Egypt captured Jerusalem en-route and defeated a combined Christian and Syrian army at the La Forbie.[93] Louis IX organised a crusade to attack Egypt in response, arriving in 1249.[94] This was not a success. Louis was defeated at Mansura and captured as he retreated back to Damietta.[95] Another truce was agreed for a ten-year period and Louis was ransomed. Louis remained in Syria until 1254 to consolidate the Crusader states.[96] From 1265 to 1271, Baibars drove the Franks to a few small coastal outposts.[97]

Image of siege of Constantinople
Conquest of the Eastern Orthodox city of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1204

The thirteenth century saw popular outbursts of ecstatic piety in support of the Crusades such as the Children's Crusade in 1212. Large groups of young adults and children spontaneously gathered believing their innocence would enable success where their elders had failed. Little reliable evidence survives but these events provided a salutary influence that hearts and minds could be engaged for the cause.[98]

Division and failure[edit]

The Crusader states were not unified and various powers competed for influence. In 1256 Genoa and Venice went to war over territory in Acre and Tyre.[99] Venice conquered the disputed territory but was unable to expel the Genoese. Two factions embarked on a 14-month siege: on one side was Genoa, Philip of Monfort, John of Arsuf and the Knights Hospitaller; the other was Venice, the Count of Jaffa and the Knights Templar.[100] After the Genoese were expelled in 1261, Pope Urban IV brokered a peace to support the defence against the Mongols.[101] Conflict resumed in 1264 with the Genoese now supported by Michael VIII Palaiologos, Emperor of Nicaea the Egyptian sultan Baibars.[102] Both sides used Muslim soldiers, particularly Turcopoles. The war significantly weakened the kingdom with most fortified buildings in Acre destroyed. According to contemporary reports 20,000 men died in the conflict. Genoa finally regained its quarter in Acre in 1288.[103]

The French, led by Louis IX's brother Charles of Anjou, similarly sought to expand their influence. In 1266, he seized Sicily, parts of the eastern Adriatic, Corfu, Butrinto, Avlona, and Suboto. He attempted to gain Byzantium politically through the Treaty of Viterbo. The heirs of Baldwin II of Constantinople and William II Villehardouin married Charles' children. If there were no offspring Charles would receive the empire and principality. Charles executed Conradin, great-grandson of Isabella I of Jerusalem and principal pretender to the throne of Jerusalem, when he seized Sicily from the Holy Roman Empire. When he purchased the rights to Jerusalem from Maria of Antioch, the surviving grandchild of Queen Isabella, he created a claim to rival that of Isabella's great grandson, Hugh III of Cyprus. Charles' planned crusade to restore the Latin Empire alarmed Michael VIII Palailogos. He delayed Charles by beginning negotiations with Pope Gregory X for union of the Greek and the Latin churches with Charles and Philip of Courtenay compelled to form a truce with Byzantium. Michael also provided Genoa with funds to encourage revolt in Charles' northern Italian territories.[104]

Image of siege of Acre
The city of Acre fell in 1291 and its Latin Christian population was killed or enslaved

In 1270, Charles turned his brother King Louis IX's last crusade to his own advantage, persuading Louis to ignore his advisers and direct the Eighth Crusade against Charles' rebel Arab vassals in Tunis. Louis' army was devastated by disease in the hot-summer Mediterranean climate, and Louis himself died at Tunis on 25 August. This ended the last significant crusading effort in the Eastern Mediterranean.[105]

The 1281 election of a French pope, Martin IV, brought the full power of the papacy into line behind Charles. He prepared to launch a crusade with 400 ships carrying 27,000 mounted knights against Constantinople. But the fleet was destroyed in an uprising fomented by Michael VIII Palailogos and Peter III of Aragon. Peter was proclaimed king, and the House of Charles of Anjou was exiled from Sicily. Martin excommunicated Peter and called for a crusade against Aragon before Charles died in 1285, allowing Henry II of Cyprus to reclaim Jerusalem. Charles had spent his life trying to amass a Mediterranean empire, and he and Louis saw themselves as God's instruments to uphold the papacy.[106]

One factor in the crusaders' decline was the disunity and conflict among Latin Christian interests in the eastern Mediterranean. Martin compromised the papacy by supporting Charles of Anjou, and tarnished its spiritual lustre with botched secular "crusades" against Sicily and Aragon. The collapse of the papacy's moral authority and the rise of nationalism rang the death knell for crusading, ultimately leading to the Avignon Papacy and the Western Schism. The mainland Crusader states of the outremer were extinguished with the fall of Tripoli in 1289 and Acre in 1291.[107] Most remaining Latin Christians left for destinations in the Frankokratia or were killed or enslaved.[108]


Image of five knights paying homage to Saladin
"Saladin and Guy de Lusignan after battle of Hattin in 1187" by Said Tahsine (1904–1985)

According to Jonathan Riley-Smith the kingdom of Jerusalem was the first experiment in European colonialism creating a 'Europe Overseas' or Outremer.[83] The raising, transportation and supply of large armies led to flourishing trade between Europe and the outremer. The Italian city states of Genoa and Venice flourished, creating profitable trading colonies in the eastern Mediterranean.[109] This trade was sustained through the middle Byzantine and Ottoman eras, and the communities were often assimilated and known as Levantines or Franco-Levantines.[B][111]

The Crusades consolidated the papal leadership of the Latin Church, reinforcing the link between Western Christendom, feudalism and militarism manifesting itself in the habituating of the clergy to violence.[83] This led to the legitimisation of seizing land and possessions from pagans on religious grounds and was debated through to the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries.[112] In addition the growth of the system of indulgences later was a catalyst for the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century.[113] The crusades also had a role in the creation and institutionalisation of the military and Dominican orders as well as the Medieval Inquisition.[114]

This assertiveness and the behaviour of the crusaders appalled the Greeks and Muslims providing a lasting barrier between the Latin world and both the Islamic and Orthodox religions. This made the reunification of the Christian church impossible and created a perception of the Westerners of being both aggressors and losers.[83]

Helen Nicholson argues that the increased contact between cultures the Crusades instigated improved the perception of Islamic culture.[115] Alongside contact in Sicily and Spain the crusades led to knowledge exchange with Christians learning new ideas from the Muslims in literature and hygiene. The Muslims also had classical Greek and Roman texts in their libraries, allowing Europe to rediscover pre-Christian philosophy.[116] In contrast the Muslim world took little from the Crusaders beyond military tactics and did not take any real interest in European culture until the 16th century. Indeed, the Crusades were of little interest to the Muslim world: there was no history of the crusades translated into Arabic until 1865 and no published work by a Muslim until 1899.[117]

Jonathan Riley-Smith considers that much of the popular understanding of the crusades derives from the novels of Walter Scott and the French histories by Joseph François Michaud. The crusades provided an enormous amount of source material, stories of heroism and interest that underpinned growth in medieval literature, romance and philosophy.[83]


Further information: Historiography of the Crusades
Illustration of the Council of Clermont
Illustration of the Council of Clermont (Jean Colombe, Les Passages d'Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, ca. 1475)

Five major sources of information exist on the Council of Clermont that led to the First Crusade: the anonymous Gesta Francorum (The Deeds of the Franks, dated about 1100–01); Fulcher of Chartres, who attended the council; Robert the Monk, who may have been present, and the absent Baldric, archbishop of Dol and Guibert de Nogent. These retrospective accounts differ greatly.[118] In his 1106–07 Historia Iherosolimitana, Robert the Monk wrote that Urban asked western Roman Catholic Christians to aid the Orthodox Byzantine Empire because "Deus vult" ("God wills it") and promised absolution to participants; according to other sources, the pope promised an indulgence. In these accounts, Urban emphasises reconquering the Holy Land more than aiding the emperor and lists gruesome offences allegedly committed by Muslims. Urban wrote to those "waiting in Flanders" that the Turks, in addition to ravaging the "churches of God in the eastern regions", seized "the Holy City of Christ, embellished by his passion and resurrection—and blasphemy to say it—have sold her and her churches into abominable slavery". Although the pope did not explicitly call for the reconquest of Jerusalem, he called for military "liberation" of the Eastern Churches.[119] After the 1291 fall of Acre, European support for the Crusades continued despite criticism by contemporaries, such as Roger Bacon, who believed them ineffective: "Those who survive, together with their children, are more and more embittered against the Christian faith".[120]

During the 16th-century Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Western historians saw the crusades through the lens of their own religious beliefs. Protestants saw them as a manifestation of the evils of the papacy, and Catholics viewed them as forces for good.[121] Eighteenth-century Enlightenment historians tended to view the Middle Ages in general, and the crusades in particular, as the efforts of barbarian cultures driven by fanaticism.[122] These scholars expressed moral outrage at the conduct of the crusaders and criticised the crusades' misdirection—that of the Fourth in particular, which attacked a Christian power (the Byzantine Empire) instead of Islam. The Fourth Crusade had resulted in the sacking of Constantinople, effectively ending any chance of reconciling the East–West Schism and leading to the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottomans. In The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon wrote that the crusaders' efforts could have been more profitably directed towards improving their own countries.[4] By the early Romantic period in the 19th century, that harsh view of the Crusades and their era had softened;[123] scholarship later in the century emphasised specialisation and detail.[124]

The 20th century produced three important histories of the crusades: by Steven Runciman, Rene Grousset and a multi-author work edited by K. M. Stetton.[125] Historians in this period often echoed Enlightenment-era criticism: Runciman wrote during the 1950s, "High ideals were besmirched by cruelty and greed ... the Holy War was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God".[84] According to Norman Davies, the crusades contradicted the Peace and Truce of God supported by Urban and reinforced the connection between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism. The formation of military religious orders scandalised the Orthodox Byzantines, and crusaders pillaged countries they crossed on their journey east. Violating their oath to restore land to the Byzantines, they often kept the land for themselves.[126][127] David Nicolle called the Fourth Crusade controversial in its "betrayal" of Byzantium.[128] Similarly, Norman Housley viewed the persecution of Jews in the First Crusade—a pogrom in the Rhineland and the massacre of thousands of Jews in Central Europe—as part of the long history of anti-Semitism in Europe.[129]

With the increasing focus on gender studies in the early 21st century, studies have been published on the topic of "Women in the Crusades" specifically. An essay collection on the topic was published in 2001, under the title Gendering the Crusades. In an essay on "Women Warriors", Caspi-Reisfield comes the conclusion that "the most significant role played by women in the West was in maintaining the status quo", in the sense of noble women acting as regents of feudal estates while their husbands were campaigining.[130] The presence of individual noble women in crusades has been noted, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine (who joined her husband, Louis VII).[131] The presence of non-noble women in the crusading armies, as in medieval warfare in general, was mostly in the role of logistic support (such as "washerwomen"),[130] while the occasional presence of women soldiers was recorded by Muslim historians.[132]

European campaigns[edit]

Northern Crusades[edit]

Painting of two crusaders looking in different directions, one holding a sword
Nineteenth-century depiction of two Livonian Knights

The success of the First Crusade inspired 12th-century popes such as Celestine III, Innocent III, Honorius III and Gregory IX to call for military campaigns with the aim of Christianization of the more remote regions of northern and northeastern Europe. These campaigns are known as the Northern Crusades.[133] The Wendish Crusade of 1147 saw Saxons, Danes and Poles enforce Catholic control over the tribes of Mecklenburg and Lusatia, Polabian Slavs (or "Wends"). Celestine III called for a crusade in 1193, but when Bishop Berthold of Hanover responded in 1198, he led a large army to defeat and his death. In response Innocent III issued a bull declaring a crusade and Hartwig of Uthlede, Bishop of Bremen along with the Brothers of the Sword brought all of the north-east Baltic under Catholic control.[133] Konrad of Masovia gave Chelmno to the Teutonic Knights in 1226 as a base for crusade against the local Polish princes.[133][134] The Livonian Knights were defeated by the Lithuanians so Gregory IX merged the remainder of the order into the Teutonic Order as the Livonian Order.[135] By the middle of the century the Teutonic Knights completed their conquest of the Prussians before conquering and converting the Lithuanians in the subsequent decades.[136] The order also came into conflict with the Eastern Orthodox Church, Pskov Republic and Novgorod Republic. In 1240 the Novgorod army defeated the Swedes in the Battle of the Neva, and two years later they defeated the Livonian Order in the Battle on the Ice.[137]

Albigensian Crusade[edit]

Main article: Albigensian Crusade
Two illuminations: the pope admonishing a group of people and mounted knights attacking unarmed people with swords
Pope Innocent III excommunicating the Albigensians (left), and an Albigensian massacre by crusaders

The Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) was a campaign against heretics that Innocent III[138] launched to eradicate Catharism, which had gained a substantial following in southern France. The Cathars were driven underground, and the County of Toulouse passed under the direct control of Capetian France with the Treaty of Paris of 1229.[139]

Bosnian Crusade[edit]

Main article: Bosnian Crusade

The Bosnian Crusade (1235–1241) was a campaign against the Bosnian church, depicted as a campaign against Catharism (Bogomilism) although possibly motivated by a Hungarian territorial expansion. In 1216 a mission was sent to convert Bosnia to Rome but failed. In 1225, Honorius III called the Hungarians to undertake the Bosnian Crusade that failed when the Hungarians retreated following defeat by the Mongols at the Battle of Mohi. From 1234 Gregory IX encouraged further crusading but again the Bosniaks repelled the Hungarians.[140]


Main article: Reconquista

In the Iberian peninsula Crusader privileges were given to those aiding the Templars, Hospitallers and the Iberian orders that merged with the orders of Calatrava and Santiago. The papacy declared frequent Iberian crusades and from 1212 to 1265, and the Christian kingdoms drove the Muslims back to the Emirate of Granada, which held out until 1492 when the Muslims and Jews were expelled from the peninsula.[141]


Image of Battle of Nicoplis
The Battle of Nicopolis in a miniature by Jean Colombe (Les Passages d'Outremer, BnF Fr 5594, ca. 1475)

Minor crusading efforts lingered into the 14th century; Peter I of Cyprus captured and sacked Alexandria in 1365 in what became known as the Alexandrian Crusade; his motivation was as much commercial as religious.[142] Louis II led the 1390 Barbary Crusade against Muslim pirates in North Africa; after a ten-week siege, the crusaders signed a ten-year truce.[143]

Several crusades were launched during the 14th and 15th centuries to counter the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. The first, in 1396, was led by Sigismund of Luxemburg, king of Hungary; many French nobles joined Sigismund's forces, including the crusade's military leader, John the Fearless (son of the Duke of Burgundy). Sigismund advised the crusaders to focus on defence when they reached the Danube, but they besieged the city of Nicopolis. The Ottomans defeated them in the Battle of Nicopolis on 25 September, capturing 3,000 prisoners.[144] In 1309, as many as 30,000 peasants gathered from England, northeastern France and Germany proceeded as far as Avignon but disbanded there.[145]

There were many minor crusades, or attempted crusades, in the context of the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th to early 15th centuries. A failed crusade against Ottoman Tunisia was undertaken in 1390. After their victory at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, the Ottomans had conquered most of the Balkans, and had reduced the Byzantine influence to the area immediately surrounding Constantinople, which they later proceeded to besiege. In 1393 the Bulgarian tsar Ivan Shishman had lost Nicopolis to the Ottomans. In 1394, Pope Boniface IX proclaimed a new crusade against the Turks, although the Western Schism had split the papacy. The enterprise culminated disastrously at Nicopolis. As the Ottomans pressed Westwards Sultan Murad II destroyed the last Papal funded crusade at Varna on the Black Sea in 1444 and four years later crushed the last Hungarian expedition.[146]

The Fall of Constantinople sealed the fate of the project to conquer the Eastern Mediterranean. Louis Bréhier (1908) describes the event as "the most appalling calamity sustained by Christendom since the taking of Saint-Jean d'Acre" (i.e. the loss of Acre in 1291). The religious and political situation in Western Europe, however, prevented any concerted or meaningful campaign to retake Constantinople. John Hunyadi and Giovanni da Capistrano organised a 1456 crusade to lift the siege of Belgrade.[147] Æneas Sylvius and John of Capistrano preached the crusade, the princes of the Holy Roman Empire in the diets of Ratisbon and Frankfurt promised assistance, and a league was formed between Venice, Florence and Milan, but nothing eventually came of it. Instead, the agitation in Europe was "more apparent than genuinme" (Bréhier 1908). Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, gave an extravagant and allegorical entertainment in Lille on 17 February 1454, the so-called Banquet of the Oath of the Pheasant, to promote a great crusade, but nothing came of it. Æneas Sylvius, now as Pope Pius II, succeeded in assembling another crusade in Ancona in 1463, which he promised to lead himself, but as he travelled to Ancona he fell sick and died, and the crusaders dispersed. In April 1487, Pope Innocent VIII called for a crusade against the Waldensians of Savoy, the Piedmont, and the Dauphiné in southern France and northern Italy. The only efforts undertaken were in the Dauphiné, resulting in little change.[148] Venice was the only polity to continue to pose a significant threat to the Ottomans in the Mediterranean, but it pursued the "crusade" mostly for its commercial interests, leading to the protracted Ottoman–Venetian Wars, which continued, with interruptions, until 1718. The final end of the Crusades as an at least nominal effort of Catholic Europe against Muslim incursion comes in the 16th century, when the Franco-imperial wars assumed continental proportions. Francis I of France sought allies from all quarters, including scandalous plans with German Protestant princes. In 1536 Francis entered into one of the capitulations of the Ottoman Empire with Suleiman the Magnificent also making common cause with the Sultan's North African vassals including Hayreddin Barbarossa.[149]

Medieval image of the Battle of Domazlice
Hussite victory in the Battle of Domažlice (c. 1500, Jena Codex fol. 56r)

The Shepherds' Crusade of 1320 was a series of attacks on clergy and Jews. This was more of a popular revolt against the French monarchy than a bona fide attempt at mounting a crusade, and it was suppressed by the authorities.[150]

The Hussite Wars, also known as the "Hussite Crusade", involved military action against the Bohemian Reformation in the Kingdom of Bohemia and the followers of early Czech church reformer Jan Hus, who was burned at the stake in 1415. Crusades were declared five times during that period: in 1420, 1421, 1422, 1427, and 1431. These expeditions forced the Hussite forces, who disagreed on many doctrinal points, to unite to drive out the invaders. The wars ended in 1436 with the ratification of the compromise Compacts of Basel by the Church and the Hussites.[151]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Partitio terrarum imperii Romaniae is a valuable record of early-13th-century Byzantine administrative divisions (episkepsis) and family estates.
  2. ^ (Frankolevantini; French Levantins, Italian Levantini, Greek Φραγκολεβαντίνοι, and Turkish Levantenler or Tatlısu Frenk leri). The term "Levantine" was used pejoratively for inhabitants of mixed Arab and European descent and for Europeans who adopted local dress and customs.[110]


  1. ^ a b Lock 2006, pp. 158–159
  2. ^ a b Asbridge 2012, p. 40
  3. ^ "Crusade". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b Davies 1997, p. 358
  5. ^ Constable 2001, p. 12
  6. ^ Riley-Smith 2009, p. 27
  7. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 255–256
  8. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 172–180
  9. ^ Lock 2006, p. 167
  10. ^ Davies 1997, pp. 362–364
  11. ^ Nicholson 2004, p. x
  12. ^ Constable 2001, pp. 12&ndas;15
  13. ^ Determann 2008, p. 13
  14. ^ Wickham 2009, p. 280
  15. ^ Lock 2006, p. 4
  16. ^ Hindley 2004, p. 14
  17. ^ Pringle 1999, p. 157
  18. ^ Findley 2005, p. 73
  19. ^ Hindley 2004, pp. 15–16
  20. ^ Bull 1999, pp. 18–19
  21. ^ Housley 2006, p. 31
  22. ^ Mayer 1988, pp. 17–18
  23. ^ Mayer 1988, pp. 2–3
  24. ^ Rubenstein 2011, p. 18
  25. ^ Cantor 1958, pp. 8–9
  26. ^ Riley-Smith 2009, pp. 10–11
  27. ^ Riley-Smith 2005, pp. 8–10
  28. ^ Asbridge 2011, p. 97
  29. ^ Hindley 2004, p. 15
  30. ^ Mayer 1988, pp. 6–7
  31. ^ Pierson 2009, p. 103
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  35. ^ Slack 2013, pp. 108–109
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  53. ^ Riley-Smith 2005, pp. 23–24
  54. ^ Tyerman 2006, pp. 192–194
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  56. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 144–145
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  68. ^ Holt 1983, pp. 235–239
  69. ^ Asbridge 2011, pp. 343–357
  70. ^ Asbridge 2011, p. 367
  71. ^ Tyerman 2007, pp. 35–36
  72. ^ Asbridge 2012, pp. 429–430
  73. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 151–154
  74. ^ Asbridge 2011, pp. 512–513
  75. ^ Lock 2006, p. 155
  76. ^ Riley-Smith 2009, pp. 43–44
  77. ^ Riley-Smith 2009, p. 44
  78. ^ Nicholson 2001
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  81. ^ Davies 1997, p. 359
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  84. ^ a b Runciman 1951, p. 480
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  88. ^ Hindley 2004, pp. 561–562
  89. ^ Lock 2006, p. 169
  90. ^ Asbridge 2011, pp. 566–568
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  94. ^ Tyerman 2006, pp. 770–775
  95. ^ Hindley 2004, pp. 194–195
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  104. ^ Baldwin 2014
  105. ^ Strayer 1969, p. 487
  106. ^ Setton 1985, p. 201
  107. ^ Lock 2006, p. 122
  108. ^ Tyerman 2006, pp. 820–822
  109. ^ Housley 2006, pp. 152–154
  110. ^ "Levantine". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  111. ^ Krey 2012, pp. 280–281
  112. ^ Housley 2006, pp. 146–147
  113. ^ Housley 2006, pp. 147–149
  114. ^ Strayer 1992, p. 143
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  117. ^ Nicholson 2004, p. 95
  118. ^ Strack 2012, pp. 30–45
  119. ^ Riley-Smith & Riley-Smith 1981, p. 38
  120. ^ Rose 2009, p. 72
  121. ^ Lock 2006, p. 257
  122. ^ Lock 2006, p. 259
  123. ^ Lock 2006, p. 261
  124. ^ Lock 2006, p. 266
  125. ^ Lock 2006, p. 269
  126. ^ Kolbaba 2000, p. 49
  127. ^ Vasilev 1952, p. 408
  128. ^ Nicolle 2011, p. 5
  129. ^ Housley 2006, pp. 161–163
  130. ^ a b Caspi-Reisfield 2002, p. 98
  131. ^ Owen 1993, p. 22
  132. ^ Nicholson 1997, p. 337
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  134. ^ Lock 2006, p. 96
  135. ^ Lock 2006, p. 103
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  139. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 163–165
  140. ^ Lambert 1977, p. 143
  141. ^ Lock 2006, p. 211
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  144. ^ Lock 2006, p. 200
  145. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 187–188
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  147. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 202–203
  148. ^ Lock 2006, p. 204
  149. ^ Davies 1997, pp. 544–545
  150. ^ Lock 2006, p. 190
  151. ^ Lock 2006, pp. 201–202


Further reading[edit]

  • Asbridge, Thomas (2005). The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict between Christianity and Islam. ISBN 0-19-518905-1. 
  • Daniel, Norman (1979). The Arabs and Mediaeval Europe. Longman Group Limited. ISBN 0-582-78088-8. 
  • Hodgson, Natasha (2007). Women, Crusading and the Holy Land in Historical Narrative. Boydell. 
  • Kahf, Mohja (1999). Western Representations of the Muslim Women: From Termagant to Odalisque. U of Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-292-74337-3. 
  • Maier, Christoph T. (March 2004). "The roles of women in the crusade movement: a survey". Journal of Medieval History. 30 (1): 61–82. doi:10.1016/j.jmedhist.2003.12.003. 
  • Phillips, Jonathan. Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades (2010)
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan (ed.) The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades Paperback, Oxford University Press (2001).
  • Riley-Smith, Jonathan. The crusades: A history (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014)
  • Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades (3 vols. 1951–1954)
  • Setton, Kenneth ed., A History of the Crusades, University of Wisconsin Press (6 vols., 1969–1989; online edition (
Includes: The first hundred years (2nd ed. 1969); The later Crusades, 1189–1311 (1969); The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries (1975); The art and architecture of the crusader states (1977); The impact of the Crusades on the Near East (1985); The impact of the Crusades on Europe (1989).
  • Tolan, John; Veinstein, Gilles; Henry, Laurens (2013). Europe and the Islamic World: A History. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-14705-5. 


  • Constable, Giles. "The Historiography of the Crusades" in Angeliki E. Laiou, ed. The Crusades from the Perspective of Byzantium and the Muslim World (2001) Extract online.
  • Powell, James M. "The Crusades in Recent Research," The Catholic Historical Review (2009) 95#2 pp. 313–19 in Project MUSE
  • Rubenstein, Jay. "In Search of a New Crusade: A Review Essay," Historically Speaking (2011) 12#2 pp. 25–27 in Project MUSE
  • von Güttner-Sporzyński, Darius. "Recent Issues in Polish Historiography of the Crusades" in Judi Upton-Ward, The Military Orders: Volume 4, On Land and by Sea (2008) available on Researchgate, available on

Primary sources[edit]

  • Barber, Malcolm, Bate, Keith (2010). Letters from the East: Crusaders, Pilgrims and Settlers in the 12th–13th Centuries (Crusade Texts in Translation Volume 18, Ashgate Publishing Ltd)
  • Bird, Jessalynn, et al. eds. Crusade and Christendom: Annotated Documents in Translation from Innocent III to the Fall of Acre, 1187–1291 (2013) excerpts
  • Housley, Norman, ed. Documents on the Later Crusades, 1274–1580 (1996)
  • Shaw, M. R. B. ed.Chronicles of the Crusades (1963)
  • Villehardouin, Geoffrey, and Jean de Joinville. Chronicles of the Crusades ed. by Sir Frank Marzials (2007)